Going into the game this past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the least penalized team in the National Football League.
In their first seven games the Steelers had amassed just 55 flags yet on Sunday against the Bengals they ended up with a whopping 10 penalties. The problem wasn’t just the flags themselves but the timing (is there ever a good time?) and type of flags that were thrown.
Three times the Steelers collected 15 yard personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that in a close, divisional game are magnified. Mike Mitchell was whistled for a 15-yard taunting penalty immediately after the Steelers’ defense had forced the Bengals to punt. Many will claim “but Mitchell’s penalty didn’t result in points.” No it didn’t but it most certainly affected field position.
The Steelers’ James Harrison was hit with a 15-harder after taking his helmet off on the field. This is something a veteran player like Harrison has to know he can’t do. Then there was Martavis Bryant who suddenly decided that it was in his best interest following an interception to try and rip the head off of a Cincinnati player. Again, another poor choice that added to an already bad situation.
Those three penalties were bad but there were also a couple of penalties that eliminated first downs and those are killers as you well know.
So my questions are simple; is this an anomaly? Is this just a fierce, division rivalry that causes penalties? The Bengals had 10 penalties of their own for instance. Or is this lack of discipline part of a more stable pattern that has surfaced under Mike Tomlin in recent years?
The Steelers are not good enough right now to be able to take dumb penalties and overcome them. Regardless of whether this sudden rash of penalties is an exception or a rule the Steelers have to knock it off.
It’s my sincere hope that while Tomlin brushes off these poor choices in his presser he’s really cracking down behind closed doors. Unfortunately I’m not holding my breath.
photo courtesy espn.com